Thursday, 4 June 2009

Big Island vog

Vog is a combination of the words "volcanic" and "smog" and is used to describe the air pollution created by outgassing from volcanoes. It's a word everyone in the Hawaiian islands recognises, especially those of us who live on the Big Island of Hawai`i. It's a serious health concern as well as a threat to crops downwind from the volcano. With Kilauea being so active these days the vog has been the worst many people can remember. Well over 2,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide is being pumped out of Kilauea into the atmosphere each day, several times the "normal" amount. On some days the smell of sulphur is quite pervading.

The panorama above was taken from the top of Mauna Kea a couple of days ago after the trade winds had just started to return to the islands. Mauna Loa is the mountain in the distance and to get your bearings, east is to the left and south is straight ahead. The trades cleared out the east side of the island but the vog remained elsewhere - it's the murky grey and white crud visible at lower altitudes, although it has been reaching summit level quite frequently recently, which is very rare.

Kilauea isn't in the shot, in fact you can't see it from this exact location as it's hidden by Mauna Kea's summit, but if you could it would be about a photo's width to the left. Last week, Andrew posted a picture of the island taken by the crew of of the space shuttle Atlantis which might give you a better picture of the geography of the island and the vog. It's well worth a look!


Anonymous said...

I honestly think the vog has made me get sick more often then I ever did living on Oahu.

I also believe that the vog has gotten worst in the last 3 years.

Tom said...

Damon - I hear many people say they've been sick since the vog got really bad. There may be a link or not, it's too subjective although I'm sure someone, somewhere, is doing a proper study. As for me, I've had fewer colds since the vog got bad. Go figure.

As for the vog itself, I've been here nearly 13 years now and there's no comparison, the vog has been the worst I've known. Perhaps it's not surprising since Kilauea has doubled its vog-producing vents. Couple that with unseasonal kona winds (climate change?) the east side has really taken a bad hit.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where exactly you live in comparison of where the vog flows.

I'm sure that you know that the patterns of the vog drift vary a lot.

I'm actually fortunate that where I live in Pahoa... seems to be relatively free of vog considering how close I live to the source.

All of us are affected by this... yet honestly, I believe we live with this natural hazard the same way people live life in general.

We know something is bad for us... but it's totally worth the risk at times.

Zuzana said...

I looked at the linking picture and it reminds me of whales swimming in the water.
I can imagine that breathing in volcanic smoke must be anything but pleasant.
Here in Scandinavia we are lucky and have top air quality; no smog to talk about whatsoever.